New Year’s Resolutions. It seems like that’s all anyone is talking about at this time of year. We make resolutions at home, at work, and even in the kitchen. We talk about our resolutions with friends and family, write them in a notebook, or print them on signs to hang on the wall. Some experts even tell us to forget making new year’s resolutions and to instead make anti-resolutions: habits to break in the new year.

I am not against making resolutions, or even anti-resolutions, but there is a reason why gym memberships spike in January and fall throughout the rest of the year. If you are among the few who can keep your resolutions, I commend you. For the rest of us, I recommend taking time early in the year to find, define, and focus on your purpose. I’ve said it before, but when you start with your why, everything else falls into place.

Why Start with Why

As I mention above, resolutions are easy to make and hard to keep. Rather than set ourselves up for failure, I believe that the beginning of the year is a good time to refocus on where you want to be. How do you envision success for yourself, and what do you want to accomplish? Here’s where your purpose is critical: to the two previous questions, ask yourself “why?” “Why do I want to do _____ this year?” Once you identify that purpose, you can direct your focus and energy towards it. When that purpose gives you energy, it you have your best chance of achieving. I have found that when I start with my why, I am my best self. And I wake up each day ready to do my best work.

Tracking Your Progress

How do you know if you are starting with your why? Pick a day, a week, or a month, and look at what you did during that time. In your personal life, you might have taken your children to the zoo. At work, maybe you designed and announced a new company benefit. It’s easy to remember what you did, but why did you do it? You probably didn’t go to the zoo because you like animals, but because you wanted to spend quality time with your kids and create a memory for them. And the policy about company benefits likely wasn’t because you like writing policies or researching benefits; it was likely because you care about your employees want to see them succeed.

Even a seemingly negative action can have the right purpose behind it. Letting an employee go for performance isn’t fun, but it typically does right by your other employees. To track your progress towards your purpose, take that list of things you’ve done. If the answer to “why” you did them was not in line with your purpose, then I encourage you to think again about your purpose and consider what you could do differently to work towards your purpose.

Knowing your purpose and starting with your why is not a fad diet. It is not something you need to start with a bang, and then fall off. Instead, it is a mindset; a mindset that you can commit to and easily revisit. I regularly ask myself at the end of a given day, “Did I start with my why today? Did I work towards my purpose?” If not, I consider what I need to do differently tomorrow. Resolutions aside, this is something I can commit to throughout the year.